Directed by Harry Bromley Davenport
Runtime 84 minutes.
If you’re looking for a twisted, low budget, and gory horror movie that consists of such specific items as killer midget clowns, a life-sized toy soldier that murders old ladies, and a full grown man clawing his way out of a vagina from which he is being birthed, …well then the 1983 British sci-fi horror film Xtro is just that movie. Running eighty-one minutes of your life you’ll never get back, Xtro is an alien abduction story directed by Harry Bromley Davenport that tells the story of a father who, after having been missing for three years is brought back to earth to look for his son whom he finds and gifts with weird and psychotic powers. The father, now an alien cross between Pumpkinhead and something out of John Carpenter’s The Thing in true form, spreads the alien race while also transforming his own kid into one with the intent on taking him back to his new home planet .. which we can only assume is called “wtf”. Truly, Xtro is the type of film that leaves the audience scratching their heads asking what the hell they had just watched and wondering how a film like that was even made. There is a very real answer to this and while it’s not as baffling as the movie itself, it can still help explain why the movie was so bizarre and exists now only for fans of the weird and obscure to dig up and explore.
One critic that asked such a question was Roger Ebert who in May of 1983 called Xtro a “depressing, nihilistic film” and gave it one star calling the filmmakers “incompetent cynics”. Clearly Ebert was not impressed with the film’s incoherent story line, bland acting, and special effects that were mediocre at best, nor did he even go into it with any kind of anticipation saying “I am not expecting a great movie when I walk into one called ‘Xtro”. While Ebert believed most para-cinematic films were usually bad and stated as much in his review, he also stated this didn’t mean they were necessarily difficult to get through and that the filmmakers usually had fun with them but Xtro was different. The movie left Ebert feeling awkward and despondent and it didn’t help that he saw the film in a double feature with Tootsie which made even less sense to him. Ebert could only assume that the theater thought they would sell more tickets for Xtro this way.
What Ebert didn’t mention in his review back in 1983 was Xtro’s odd similarities to Alien (1979) directed by Ridley Scott particularly in the way the aliens reproduce. While doing research for Xtro I came across a blog which read “Xtro is the revolting ‘Alien’ rip-off you have to see” from Filmschoolrejects.com which called Xtro a “wannabe” film that fell in line with a number of other films that tried to replicate ‘Alien’ but with much smaller budgets and disastrous results. While the ever-fearsome face-huggers plant embryos down the throat of their victims (male or female it matters not) from which an alien pops out of the chest, Xtro’s aliens impregnate their victims by shoving their alien dick directly into the mouths and down the throats of their female victims from which almost immediately a full grown man comes crawling out of her vagina. Filmschoolrejects.com suggests that Xtro was just one of several films that attempted to cash in on the alien fame at the time following the release of ‘Alien’ but that unlike Ridley Scott, these movies were working with almost no budget and simply had to make due with what they could afford which unfortunately wasn’t much. Xtro made an attempt to shock audiences with its excessive gore and sexual violence. Doing so may have made the project harder for filmmakers to make convincing in an era devoid of computer graphics and barley any money to provide for a better set and props therefore producing a weirdly executed film.
Regardless of all the film’s faults Filmschoolrejects.com called Xtro “an epic in weird cinema” which is true, it is definitely weird on an epic level but even though Xtro doesn’t offer much in the way of thrill or intrigue, it is still a movie that leaves people feeling peculiar and talking about the film even if they’re just discussing how bad it is. For those of us that grew up with programs like MST3K there is a love for the weird and poorly executed films made with directors who, for their part probably utilized genuine creativity but failed in the end to make a truly good film. Because of this, like many other tragically daring low budget movies, Xtro remains a kooky sci-fi classic.
Managing editor: The Moratorium